Atomosphobia (fear Of A Nuclear Explosion): Symptoms, Causes, Treatment

A type of phobia in which the unlikely situation of a nuclear explosion is scary.


Atomosophobia is a clear example that human beings can develop extreme fears of very unlikely phenomena. This mental alteration is based on the fear of atomic explosions, something that the vast majority of the population never experienced or will ever experience.

Let’s see what are the symptoms and causes of atomosphobia, as well as the possible psychological treatments associated with this disorder.

What is atomosphobia?

Atomosophobia, or phobia of nuclear explosions, is a type of anxiety disorder belonging to the group of specific phobias.

In it, what produces an intense fear is the expectation of a nuclear explosion in a nearby place. This means that the symptoms of the disorder do not manifest themselves only if one of these explosions is witnessed, but can appear in practically any context, as long as the intrusive ideas related to this class of catastrophes come into the focus of the attention of person.

It must be taken into account that phobia are disorders because in them there is a fear of something that should not be feared with that intensity, since it does not pose a danger. In the case of nuclear explosions it is clear that they are dangerous, but in this case the problem lies in a matter of probability: what should not be feared is the risk of an imminent and near nuclear explosion, since it is most likely will not occur.


As in the rest of the phobias, there is no specific and unique cause that is the same in all cases, but there are a variety of situations that can lead to the development of these disorders and cause their symptoms to remain.

Exposure to a traumatic experience related to real or imagined nuclear explosions is one of the causes. This association between experience and an emotional state of strong anxiety can be realized in the most elaborate ways.

For example, when experiencing the collapse of a house closely, which is similar to the explosion of a bomb, or when watching someone you love die of cancer, in which case the most anxious element of the nuclear explosion would be the radiation that it would leave behind. in its wake.

It must be borne in mind that phobias are based on mechanics of fear and anxiety that in most cases are useful for survival, but that in certain cases can degenerate and give way to psychopathology.

That means that these anxiety disorders are not something that can be controlled through rationality, but they start from the emotional facet that has been for millions of years at the core of the functioning of the nervous system and without whose existence we could not understand the human mind.


Regarding the symptoms, these are the usual ones in any type of phobia, and all of them have to do with a strong anxiety response to a real or imagined stimulus.

On the one hand, there are the physiological symptoms. These are increased blood pressure and respiratory rate, tremors, cold sweats, nausea, and the possibility of losing consciousness.

On the other hand, there is the psychological component, in which the obsessive ideas based on the image of the nuclear explosion stand out, and the impossibility of directing attention to anything else while the crisis lasts, as well as the feeling of fear.

Finally we have the purely behavioral part, which highlights the behavior of flight and avoidance of the phobic stimulus.


Fortunately, phobias have a good prognosis if they are treated with the help of professional psychologists.

In this sense, the most common techniques to treat this type of disorder in which we find atomosphobia are systematic desensitization and exposure. Both are based on the idea of ‚Äč‚Äčexposing the person to the phobic stimulus in a controlled situation, under the supervision of the psychotherapist, and going from the easiest situations to face to the most difficult ones.

In the case of atomosphobia, as it is not possible to find the phobic stimulus in real life, the most useful thing is to take advantage of forms of virtual reality based on a three-dimensional graphics engine.

On the other hand, in parallel ways can be used psychological intervention that appeal to the cognitive component and mental schemes. For this, cognitive restructuring is used, linked in this case to the improvement of self-esteem and self-efficacy.

Bibliographic references:

  • Cavallo, V. (1998). International Handbook of Cognitive and Behavioral Treatments for Psychological Disorders. Pergamon.
  • Myers, KM, Davis, M. (2007). “Mechanisms of fear extinction”. Molecular Psychiatry. 12 (2): pp. 120 – 150.

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